Vendors despair amid Covid-19 restrictions
Some small-scale business people have expressed fear that various restrictions which the government is imposing to contain the spread of Covid-19 will push them out of business if they are not provided with cushioning mechanisms.
District councils such as Mangochi, Balaka, Machinga, as well as major cities have imposed bans on several trading activities including operation of bars.
Mobile markets have also been suspended while trading hours in most established markets have been slashed.
“They have told us to stop operating beyond 6pm, yet we sell more during those hours when people have knocked off from work. We hear government is bailing out big businesses. They should reach out to us too because we are equally affected,” said Peter Mbewe, a fish vendor at Mangochi Market.
He accused the government of favouring large-scale enterprises at the expense of vendors “who are in large numbers”.
His sentiments were concurred by Mercy Mulomba, a vegetable vendor who claimed her business is struggling because of the restrictions imposed by the government.
Most vendors we talked to argue that the government is neglecting them.
“What will kill us is not the coronavirus but hunger. We hear that there are loans which the government is giving out. But, we know that in most cases, most people who benefit from such facilities are political party supporters,” said another vendor, Cassim Twaya.
Government spokesperson, Mark Botomani, admitted that the concerns raised by the vendors are valid.
However, Botomani said the government has started implementing some initiatives to ensure that all businesses including those by vendors survive beyond the Covid-19 period.
“Government has already released K12 billion to commercial banks. The idea is that small-scale businesspeople should go to these banks and borrow money to sustain their businesses. The interest rate is at the moment at 13 percent to encourage borrowing during this period,” Botomani said.
He also said President Peter Mutharika directed that Malawi Enterprise Development Fund loans should be increased by K2 billion to allow vendors and other small-scale businesses to borrow money from the fund and sustain their businesses.